CHALLIS, Reginald David

No.6740, Private, Reginald David CHALLIS
Aged 29

2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Died as a PoW on Friday, 9th April 1915

An Old Contemptible

Reginald David Challis was born in Bardwell (Thingoe Q3-1885 4A:652), son of John and Alice Eliza CHALLIS (née FEAKS).

1891 census...None of the family have been found in this census

1901 census...Aged 16, a farm labourer, he was boarding with his sister Edith [17] at 7 Low Street, Bardwell, with farmer Henry ADDISON and his wife Eliza. All Bardwell born. At The Street, Stonham Aspall were his father John CHALLIS [40] journeyman blacksmith born Ousden; his mother Alice Eliza [36], born Bardwell; sisters Catherine Maud [12], Violet Mildred [11] and Melvina Alice [7]; brother Walter Frederick [10] all born in Bardwell; sister Eleanor Victoria [3] and brother William George [2]both born in Debenham.

1911 census...Aged 26 he was still boarding with Henry and Eliza ADDISON at Low Street, Bardwell. Still in Stonham Aspall were his parents,sister Eleanor and brothers William and John [4] born Stonham Aspall.

CWGC have his parents latest address as Thorndon, Eye and he is on the war memorial there. He was the brother in law of William Blizzard. click here

He enlisted in Bury St Edmunds. He must have been a Regular soldier or a Reservist before the war.
He was found by the Germans on 26th August 1914 at Le Cateau. Mother recorded as Mrs Challis of Stonham Aspall, also recorded Miss M.Ellisworth, Briarfield, Bury St Edmunds. It is not clear if this was from German sources or from enquiries to the International Red Cross at the time. Neither Red Cross, nor German record show where or when he was buried. Being found at Le Cateau does make it strange that he is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres. His grave was obviously lost in later fighting.

A day famous in the history of the Suffolk Regiment, someone, not General Dorien-Smith, had ordered the Suffolks to stand, under no circumstances were they to retreat. So they carried out the order, until the Dorien-Smith realised their predicament and ordered the withdrawal. Had they not made such a stand the whole outcome of the withdrawal may have had drastic results for the British Army. As it was their 9 hours stand gave much of the BEF the chance to escape to fight another day.

The battalion war diary has :-
26th Aug -4.30 am - Battalion took up position in the front line facing Le Cateau and improved the position with entrenching tools as much as time permitted.
7-30 am p Shrapnel fire commenced on the trenches and proved most effective. The supports of the firing line which were situated just in front of a battery of Field Artillery suffered heavily.
9 am - Lt Col CAH Brett DSO mortally wounded.
12.30 pm - Shell fire exceedingly heavy, enfilade fire from the left flank.
4 pm - A general retirement of the Division.
10 pm - Near BOHAIN a short halt was made when the transport and a few of the Battalion were collected together. I GS wagon containing officers kit was left behind at Reumont owing to one of the horses being shot.

At roll call at 5 am on 27th only 111 officers and men were accounted for, although some stragglers did catch up later.

Reginald's date of death is recorded as between 26th August 1914 and 9th April 1915 as a prisoner of war in his "Soldiers Personal Effects" . All other records are based presumably on the German "death list" from 9th April 1915. Strangely there is no record of where he was imprisoned, or where he was buried

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Reginald Challis is commemorated on the Menin Gate, panel 21
and at war memorial in Thorndon, nr Eye, Suffolk

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details